Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character was created in 1912 and is nearing his 100th birthday in various forms of media. Throughout his long history, he’s had quite a few action figures. One of the most unique of those figures, is Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Hero version. Today we’re taking a spotlight look at this jungle adventurer.
Tarzan is one of my favorite figures in the Mego WGSH line. That may sound strange, as he’s arguably one of the weakest of the figures in many respects. However, what Tarzan lacks in brand appeal, he makes up for in oddity. Tarzan was a hugely popular character throughout the 20’s-60’s but was definitely starting to wane in popularity by the 1970’s. Today he seems downright antiquated, best left to Disney cartoons and black and white movies… But there was a time when Tarzan was badass.
That’s not to say Tarzan wasn’t still popular to an extent in the 1970’s, as he would receive a Saturday morning cartoon and eventually a toy line by Mattel in the decade. However it’s his 1974 debut in Mego’s line that’s perhaps a testament to his uniqueness. Mego was beginning to crank out a variety of big name superheroes from DC and Marvel in their 8 inch line, and out of nowhere comes Tarzan. To say that he didn’t fit would be an understatement.
While the WGSH assortments are known for some strange choices, many are more logical when you examine them. Falcon as an example, would appeal specifically to the African American demographic. But why Tarzan? As it turns out the late Neal Kublan, former Vice President of Mego, was a big fan and licensed the character for the line simply because of that.
Aside from being an oddball character in the line, Tarzan has a lot of interesting choices in his design. His hair is more like that of a shaggy Beatle than the long mane that Tarzan was often known for. His hair didn’t even look like Ron Ely’s more manicured 1960’s Tarzan. The different look is one of the things that definitely attracts me to this toy.
His outfit is similar to the old circus strongmen and this was a look that had been phased out for Tarzan by the 1970’s. Perhaps this is how Kublan had remembered Tarzan. He even has a flesh bodysuit on, reminding me of Jack Benny’s portrayal of the ape man. In fact I have to wonder if Jack Benny as Tarzan wasn’t the model for this figure. His bodysuit runs right down to his feet, giving him a pajama-like look.
He’s hardly the most imposing figure in the line, but there’s something just so corny and camp about the character that works. This version is a Type 1 body which makes him even less dynamic in look. This is a pretty common body to find Tarzan on. Incredibly, despite being nearly 40 years old… This figure has tight joints and stands on his own in a variety of poses with absolutely no problem.
He’s also one of the few World’s Greatest Super Heroes from Mego that includes an accessory. A single, rather unremarkable black knife. These are much harder to come by these days, as they were often lost by kids. Any small GI Joe knife, or Action Jackson knife will work as a decent substitute, though.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Tarzan doesn’t look more like Conan, but I figure it goes back to Kublan’s preference. Even the artwork used in the Tarzan package shows him with nothing but animal pelt shorts. Tarzan isn’t super hard to come by these days, but he’s a little rarer than some. Mego lost the rights to him in 1976 and many kids likely didn’t take as good care of an offbeat character such as this one. However I’m certain that kids in the 40’s-50’s would have flipped for a Tarzan this cool.
I’m not sure why I like the Mego Tarzan so much… Perhaps it’s because he’s an underdog. Maybe it’s because he’s just such an odd toy. Maybe it’s because you can take him out in the backyard and instantly have an adventure… I don’t know. Whatever the case, I think he’s one of the more fun additions to the line.
Tarzan is an eclectic representation of the character and a truly different choice for the Mego line. However, he’s a really fun figure and one that I am definitely glad to have in my collection. To many people, Tarzan is the lamest member of the WGSH, but to those who can see beneath, you’ll see one of the brightest spots! WGSH wouldn’t be quite as fun without Tarzan.